Not believing in biographies or many photographs leaves Sproatly Smith cloaked in anonymity. Who are these purveyors of mystical wares? And where do they come from? Well, their Facebook page merely states, 'psych folk band from Herefordshire', which is nicely succinct but hardly an explanation for the enigmatic treasures contained within 'The Minstrel's Grave'. Steeped in folklore, fans of Circulus, Trees, Comus and Telling The Bees, will be nutty to miss this album, but that's easily said, unlocking the mysteries contained within is a little trickier.
'The Minstrel's Grave', which was available before in very limited numbers through Reverb Workshop, now finds a home on Folk Police Recordings of Manchester in a newly remastered version. Not as immediate as label mates The Woodbine & Ivy, Sproatly Smith play on the listener's curiosity with spoken dialogue and found sounds strewn throughout - enough to warrant a Hammer Films soundtrack - which makes the more focused moments standout even more. 'Blackthorn Winter' sounds like a copy of Midlake's 'Acts Of Man' has accidentally gone through the wash, and it probably wouldn't be wise to go fraternising with the damsels on, classic creeper, 'Willow Waly'.
The 'The Fabled Hare' drifts in on a wave of musical distortion beckoning with it's neo-pagan poetry: 'I will go in the devil's lair....I am moved by the moon....I call the dawn and spring in'. But the album's crowning glory must be Dock Bogg's 'O Death', complete with singing saw, coupled with their own 'Death' ('as your loved ones they place heavy stones on your face') before flying off into a guitar wig-out of Sabbathy proportions. Based on this evidence the group's clandestine activities will be hard to maintain.